Arriving early on Monday morning allowed me to maximise my time in Chandigarh. It’s a city of contrast compared to Amritsar. The roads are wide and straight, the views from my hotel are of a green tree canopy and most of the shops are easily recognisable brands. The dirt and dust of Amritsar is nowhere to be seen, be equally the most historic building I’ve seen are from by Le Corbusier, the modernist architect. He had the opportunity to design the layout of India’s first modern city in the 1950s. his building include the museum and art gallery that I visited.
My encounter of the day was with my dear friend Peter Bance. Peter has helped me plan my trip and I was delighted when he said he’d be in Amritsar for a few days whilst I was there. Yesterday I had the opportunity to catch up with him again before he headed back to England before my first major meeting of my trip.
Following my site visits in Amritsar, Mr Navjot PS Randhawa, Director of Tourism, Cultural Affairs, Archeology, Museums & Archives Punjab had offered me the opportunity to meet with him whilst I was here. Not only was I able thank him personally for allowing me access to sites and collections not normally open to the public, but also to ask a few questions. We were joined by Gurmeet Rai, the conservation Architect for the Gobindgarh Fort project, Gurmeet is very keen to develop some joint working particularly linking some of the ASHT sites with those in the Punjab and possibly a knowledge network. I was also presented with a folio of Emily Eden prints for the museum. It was a fantastic positive start to my work in Chandigarh.
Later in the afternoon Dr Aujla took Peter & I to the Punjab Digital Library. Thanks to Davinder Pal Singh’s innovation thousands of documents, photographs, newspapers, coins and books have been digitally copied and are available for use, for free. The data base is extensive, not only have the library developed their own specialist equipment to use, they have also developed their own cataloguing system similar to MODES. The Library receives private funding and is committed to preserving the history of the Punjab as a whole. I will be requesting copies of material for use at Ancient House once I return home.
Tuesday started with a visit to Chandigarh Government Museum and Art Gallery, and meeting Seema Gera. I was delighted to see their collection of Phulkari and to be offered digital copies by Seema. The museum is housed in a Le Corbusier building from the 1950s and there is a dedicated display about the town’s development. I really enjoyed exploring the textile gallery, Seema is very knowledgeable about the objects and more importantly, very passionate about the museum. We talked about the differences between our museum structures & how we could help each other. I gave the museum a copy of the Norfolk Catalogue featuring Prince Frederick Duleep Singh’s painting collection for their library, it’s great to know something about Ancient House is sitting in another museum collection in India!
After lunch it ws time for a visit to the Government Emporium followed by a quick look at the Panjab University to see the iconic Le Corbusier buildings. The campus looked like a great place to study, it reminded me of the UEA.
My last visit of the day was to the Arts Council, who were holding the final day of their annual arts festival.
I adored Anuradha Thakur’s Ethnic Expeditions exhibition, and delighted to meet her. Anuradha was lovely and keen to talk about her work, created by spending time in villages experiencing tribal life. We’re standing by her favourite pieces in the photo.
One of the government ministers, Parmider Singh Dhinsa was in attendance, so there were plenty of armed guards around the site. After we were introduced, he took quite an interest in Ancient House and the story of why I was in India. Thinking I was there to watch a presentation ceremony and to meet the Arts Council chair, I suddenly found myself called up on stage and presented with a gift – unfortunately my Punjabi hasn’t progressed, so I just smiled and clapped in what I hope was all the right places!
I’ve loved my past two days in Chandigarh, it’s a vibrant city with a strong arts focus. Dr Aujla has been supportive but has allowed me the space to get on with the work I need to do, so as I approach my last day here I can reflect back positively. And one final bonus, he introduced me to a textile researcher, Jasvinder Kaur, who is taking me on an intrepid search for real live Phulkari embroiders in a village just outside Chandigarh in the morning!